Sheila Tyson called a pair of rental assistance agreements “a Band-Aid on a bad wound” as the newly installed Jefferson County Commission met for the first time on Monday.
Tyson and her fellow commissioners had heard two items during their committee meeting that allotted money to pay the rent for a couple of Jefferson County households to keep each from becoming homeless.
Tyson, who chairs the commission’s Community Services and Workforce Development Committee, said poor persons in the county need training so they can provide for themselves.
During their meeting, commissioners also approved $75,000 from the general fund for Lawson State Community College for workforce development and job training programs.
“Education is the key to our workforce,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “We want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to have a livable wage.”
Of the two allotments to pay rent, one was $4,500 to Oak Trail Apartments, owned by Tice Properties, and the other was $8,300 to Bee Ready, LLC. Each was an emergency solutions grant that was paid with federal funds.
Tyson said the better investment is in workforce development funds. “I know paying a person’s rent is not going to help them. It’ll help them for 30 days because the rent comes again,” she said.
“What we need to do is try to make it where a person can pay their own rent,” she said. “They need a living wage. If not, the next month they’re going to be in the same predicament. Being over workforce development, I think we are ready. I know through hard work and training they can come up and make a living wage and they can provide for their families.”
Tyson said she wants to meet the poor “where they’re at.”
“Sometimes you have to spoon-feed information to people in order to lift them up and get them some training,” she said. “I’m here, I’m willing to step in that gap and I’m willing to do it myself. I am the commissioner. I will go to the streets and I will get the information out to the people that’s in Jefferson County.”
The committee meeting and the full commission on Monday afternoon were the first regular gatherings of the body that was sworn in last Wednesday. Stephens said he thinks citizens have put together a great team of newcomers – Tyson, Lashunda Scales and Steve Ammons – with himself and fellow holdover Joe Knight.
“I think that we’re working together on behalf of the citizens,” he said. “I can see their passion. I can see their commitment. We need to transcend that into improving the quality of life and I think we can get that done.”
Commissioners also saw a presentation about the county’s data portal that will be accessible via the Internet.
“It’s part of the transparency this Jefferson County Commission is attempting to have with its citizens,” Stephens said. “The more engaged we can have our citizens, the better your government will be able to perform.”
Commissioners adjusted their next scheduled meetings to Monday, Dec. 3, with committee meeting at 9 a.m. and the full commission meeting at 2:30 p.m. The shift avoids a conflict with new commissioners’ attending a training session in Montgomery.